GAME REVIEW: Eastward

Developer: Pixpil
Publisher: Chucklefish
Release Date: September 16, 2021
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Windows, MacOS
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch

JRPGs tend to provide unique gameplay with a compelling and sometimes heart tugging story that makes the player crave more; this game is definitely no exception. Eastward delivers a very charming experience, exploring the lives of Sam and John along with other colorful characters in a post apocalyptic setting. Take the base of an action adventure, sprinkle in a lot of role playing elements, along with a hefty side of a quirky story, and the result is a complex yet beautiful recipe.

Synopsis:

The adventure takes place 20XX in a struggling post apocalyptic world where humans and androids live together in harmony. Sam is hard at work as a miner when he discovers a human like creature in a tube in an abandoned alien facility. A dark entity known as the Miasma is on the verge of swallowing up humanity, while rumors of a thriving promised land exists far away. It’s up to silent, yet strong John along with his bright and spunky, newly adopted daughter Sam to make things right.

Gameplay:

Eastward is split into two distinct phases: an exploration phase, and an action phase. Each chapter of the game begins with you exploring, finding specific characters to talk to, locating pieces to a machine, etc. In this phase, there’s no combat, so you don’t have to worry about whipping out your weapon. Instead, you’ll meet up with friends like Alva the princess and technician, as well as her companion Isabel. Once you’ve assembled your clues and solved enough puzzles, you’ll advance to the next phase.

In the action sequences, you’ll venture off and defend yourself against alien, man eater plants, tiny glob monsters, and many other fearsome fiends. John’s weapon of choice is a frying pan, while Sam has her telekinetic abilities. You can switch between the two on the fly to get through the many puzzles in their path. In combat, John is more offensive, slamming enemies with his kitchenware, frying foes with blow torches, and dicing baddies with buzz saws, all of which can be upgraded in shops where the currency is mostly gear parts. Sam attacks at range, dispensing telekinetic energy which only temporarily stuns her enemies. Furthermore, her skills can only be improved by reaching new parts of the story, so there’s no need to collect bolts for her.

During combat, I never felt it was really necessary to use Sam since all she does is put her enemies in a brief stunned state with her psychic bubble blasts. Many of the puzzles put you in a Mario and Luigi-like vibe when Sam and John are separated and have to find paths to meet one another. For instance, Sam can move through small tunnels that John can’t fit in, so maybe he can take out one of his bombs and bat the bomb to a blockade near the tunnel’s path to get him across and meet Sam on the other side. It sometimes makes for a simple yet complex style of puzzle solving that gets you through the game.

Eastward draws inspiration from many sources. For instance, you extend your health just like in The Legend of Zelda, where you need to collect four like items. There’s also a off-beat sense of humor like that of Earthbound; your save point is a talking, philosophically minded refrigerator for example, and is often accompanied by a stove that allows you to cook up meals with ingredients you find throughout your adventure. These meals that you whip up give temporary stat boosts and extra health, so there’s a bit of a survival element to the game, as well.

Speaking of Earthbound, one pleasant surprise is there is an RPG-within-an-RPG by the name of “Earthborn.” “Earthborn” is Sam’s favorite game, and you get the option of playing parts of it during cool breaks from the story. The game is an old school RPG that takes casts you as a knight who has to defeat the Dragon King and rescue the princess. The entire game immediately reminds you of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest by its play style of turn-based combat and exploration. Your character explores the lands all over the map, recruiting party members, and getting stronger so as to take on the dreaded Dragon King.

Final Score:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Eastward is a beautiful and quirky RPG telling the story of John and his newly adopted daughter Sam in a grand adventure to save all of humanity. It has a very colorful world oozing with loads of charm, with each defining detail of pixel art making you further appreciate the journey itself. The game can be bogged down though with some simplistic puzzles and overly wordy banter between characters; some of the jokes are hit-or-miss as well. I also was kind of disappointed that Sam wasn’t as powerful of a character as I hoped her to be, especially considering she has psychic powers. Still, these low points can easily be overlooked as you enjoy the rest the game has to offer. I had fun from beginning to end and I will give this game a 5 out of 5.

What about you? Have you played Eastward, or planning on trying the game out? Let us know what you think of the game down the comments below and check out our Boss Rush Discord! We also have our Facebook group where we discuss all things gaming related!

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Source: Nintendo World Report, Game Rant, NintendoInsider

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